The Midpoint between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice is another important date on the Wheel of the Year its Celtic name is Samhain.
In the Northern Hemisphere, many traditions celebrate the last days of October/ beginning of November. Here in South Africa and the Southern Hemisphere, it falls at the end of April and 1st Day of May.
Autumn is at its height and Winter is around the corner. We can see and feel the waning of the year, the leaves falling and the darkness of the nights. It feels symbolic of letting go, death of the year and taking stock of what we have.
Many cultures around the world can relate this time of year to a closer connection to the spirit world and our beloved ancestors.
From the Christian traditions and honouring of All Hallows Eve/ All Saints Day, or All Souls Day. In Mexico the combination of Aztec and Catholicism with the celebration of Día de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). Greek Mythology tells the stories of Persephone entering the shadow world to look after the lost souls for half of the year. In the older Celtic & Gaelic traditions, these points in the year were celebrated as Samhain, which has modernly evolved into Halloween.
Farmers and gardeners still today honour this time with the end of the Harvest season time to cut back, store grains and seeds, light bonfires and let go of the pastoral year.
Some of the ancient Samhain practices were exported along with many Irish immigrants to the Americas and transformed into pumpkins and trick or treating, but its roots are far more sacred, earthy and honouring before the commercialism.
There is a lot of beautiful symbolism of this time of year we should still honour in our natural world and ourselves. Here are some of the main things this season is really about and many things we do naturally without realising their sacred and important place in the wheel of the Year.
Give Thanks and Offering
I vividly remember many harvest festivals at school, giving food to the elderly and big displays of pumpkins, apples, wheat and bread. We can physically give offerings and donations to those in need and also contemplate, take time to journal or meditate on gratitude for the year and end of the growing season.
Listen to your Body
We might start to notice it is time to settle into the void of winter, Just as animals start to gather and hibernate, humans also change behaviours. We might feel less or more social. Our daily patterns, sleep, exercise or diet might change. Listen to your body clocks and circadian rhythms, be aware of these changes, and see if you can deeply listen to what your body needs without falling into bad habits.
The harvest is coming to an end, though there are lots of fruits and plants still flourishing. look into what is abundant locally and seasonally to you. The importance of eating seasonally is not only good for the environment but also for our bodies, we start to crave what the earth has provided at the right time.. Think warm apple pie and root vegetable stews rather than summer berries and salads. (though here in Gauteng autumn is all about Avos and Nartjies!)
Honour Your Ancestors
The commonality that unites all humans is that we are connected by our ancestors and that we have all experienced loss of some kind. We can honour our Ancestors or Lost loved ones (including our animal friends), with photos, and symbolic objects as well as lighting a candle and thanking them for their love and wisdom.
Taking Stock Honouring the Past
Samhain and Autumn is a deep connection to the past. We do so by not only honouring our ancestors but thanking the Harvest for the years' events and counting our blessings.
it is a reminder the look back to see what we have also gained this year, rather than just looking forward to where we want to be, Ask where have I come from? how have I grown and evolved?
Clear out and Let Go
Now we have taken stock, we now need to let go of what we don't need. In Yoga, the idea of 'Aparigraha' is non-hoarding or non-attachment. When we are grateful for what we have, we can release what is not needed in our lives, physically, mentally and emotionally. Have a physical clear-up of your home, give away, and do the work to release any stuck patterns or habits you need to shed.
Top Tips, Questions to ask yourself and Rituals for Samhain:
Here are a few ideas to honour the ending of the season and welcome in Winter at Samhain/ All Souls/ New Moon Weekend.
I Reflect on the Year
Ideas- Journal, meditate on or share in a circle or with a listening Partner
What has gone on this year?
What beautiful memories can I carry with me?
What would I like to learn and grow from?
I am Taking Stock
Write 3 things I am grateful for today.
What resources do I have for winter?
What abundance and love do you have in your life,
What are you grateful for?
I am Letting Go
Ideas- clear out my home, Prune the garden make a bonfire, Write down anything that is not serving my life at the moment, you can always symbolically burn it!
What can I release?
What do I not need in my life?
What is not helping move forward?
I Honour My Ancestors
Ideas- put up pictures of loved ones or symbolic objects, you can light a candle and decorate your space with autumn flowers, seeds, leaves or pine cones.
Write a letter to someone who has passed and tell them about your year.
I honour my lost loved one and my other ancestors,
I honour the wisdom that resides in me.
I ask them to Guide me in difficult times and celebrate with them the good.
I Listen to My Body
Ideas- add warming seasonal foods and spices. keep the body flowing with gentle exercise and breathing. rest deeply cosy with a good book.
Do I need to get to bed earlier?
Do I need to make sure I keep moving and exercising?
Do I crave different foods?
I listen to my body but still honour its needs.
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